Voluntary organisations voice concerns over EU environmental law review

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‘Joint Links group’ – a group that represents 100 voluntary organisations across the UK – has warned that European Commission’s REFIT ‘Fitness Check’ of the Birds and Habitats Directives is the single biggest threat to UK and European nature and biodiversity in a generation and that the review may end up weakening the directives.

The organisations raise concerns that the Directives are under threat of being weakened by those who mistakenly regard them as a block on business and economic growth. In the current political context any revision of the Directives would expose them to prolonged uncertainty and leave the long-term future of Europe’s biodiversity vulnerable to short-term political priorities.

Chair of the Joint Links’ Habitats and Birds group Kate Jennings, (RSPB), has pegged the Habitats and Birds Directives as the foundation of nature conservation across Europe. Jennings said that they have been scientifically proven to be effective where properly implemented and that they deliver demonstrable benefits for nature, as well as significant social and economic benefits.

“For over 30 years they have protected some of our best loved and most iconic landscapes from the Scottish Flow County to the sand dunes and marshes of the north Norfolk coast. They are essential to the protection of species large and small, from the Basking Shark and the Harbour Porpoise, to the Dartford Warbler and the Hazel Dormouse”, said Jennings.

“The strength of support from 100 voluntary organisations across the UK shows how significant the Directives are in safeguarding Europe’s biodiversity. Uncertainty over the future of the Directives resulting from the ‘Fitness Check’ review could be bad for nature, bad for people and bad for business.”

The Joint Links group’s response to the EC consultation sets out a huge volume of evidence that demonstrates the effectiveness of the Directives in protecting nature, providing huge benefits for people and providing a stable framework for responsible businesses.

The voluntary organisations said that they are deeply concerned by the European Commission’s decision to subject the EU Birds and Habitats Directives to a ‘Fitness Check’, as part of its ‘REFIT’ programme.

Joint Links added that the economies of the UK and other EU Member States are struggling and evidence is growing that nature is in crisis. Most people in the UK and Europe want nature to be protected and improved and the organisations believe that the uncertainty about the future of the Directives caused by the ‘Fitness Check’ could be bad for nature; bad for people and bad for business.

Joint Links further added that in the current political context any revision of the Directives would expose them to prolonged uncertainty and leave the long-term future of Europe’s biodiversity vulnerable to short-term political priorities.

Where they are properly implemented the Directives work for nature, for people and for business. Weakening the protection the Directives provide would be a retrograde step. What we need is better implementation of existing requirements at the EU and Member State level, alongside more and better targeted funding. This would be better for nature, better for people, and better for business. Shortsighted politics must not be allowed to put the future of nature and biodiversity in Europe at further risk.

On 30 April the European Commission launched its public consultation on the Directives. Voluntary organisations have also launched the ‘Nature Alert’ electronic tool, enabling the public to have their say in one easy click www.naturealert.eu